Four-time premiership-winning mentor Tim Sheens is set to take on an increased role with Wests Tigers upon his return to the club in a director of coaching position after confirmation that Michael Maguire would continue as coach next season.
Sheens – who won premierships with the Tigers in 2005 and Canberra in 1989, 1990 and 1994 – is waiting for a flight from England to take up the post and will work closely with Maguire, who survived a review of the club’s football operations that sparked intense speculation about his future.
The cashed-up Tigers, who have about $2 million in their salary cap to spend and have been linked with the likes of Tariq Sims and Adam Elliott, will part ways with assistant coach Wayne Collins and are on the look-out for a replacement.
However, the main change next season will be the involvement of Sheens, who coached Maguire at the Raiders and has a relationship with Tigers great Robbie Farah – a member of the club’s staff – from his time in charge of the Kangaroos.
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“Tim will be far more actively engaged within the NRL team and football department than was originally envisaged,” Tigers chairman Lee Hagipantelis said. “He will be an incredible resource and utility to the organisation and to the football department, in particular.
“His role is tantamount to a director of coaching role but Tim, to the extent necessary, will largely define his own role. He is entitled to do that. The man has coached over 700 first grade games.”
Maguire is an experienced coach and has enjoyed grand final success with Wigan in 2010 and South Sydney in 2014, while reviving the fortunes of the Kiwis who are currently the No.1 ranked Test playing nation after being eliminated by Fiji in the quarter-finals of the 2017 World Cup.
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However, Hagipantelis is confident Maguire and Sheens will complement each other in their roles with the Tigers next season.
“Tim and Michael go back a long way and they both speak very highly of each other. It is almost a master and master apprentice-type relationship, although the master-apprentice himself has become a master as Michael has two premierships to his name.
“My understanding, and from what I have observed, is that they have an excellent relationship both in and out of employment, and we are really looking forward to how that develops over the next season.”
After weeks of intense debate about whether Maguire would serve a fourth season in charge of the Tigers, Hagipantelis said the club could now move forward and step up the recruitment of players for next season.
The Tigers have some promising young talent, headed by Daine Laurie, Adam Doueihi, Stefano Utoikamanu, Jake Simpkin and Shawn Blore, but have struggled to recruit big-name players.
Sims, who played for NSW this season, has been given permission by St George Illawarra to negotiate with rival clubs, while Elliott has been released by the Bulldogs and former Blues utility Tyrone Peachey is also without a club.
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“There has been activity within the recruitment and retention spaces over the last little while and that will of course now be ramped up because one of the things I have learned is that the identity of the head coach does figure largely in the thinking of potential recruits,” Hagipantelis said.
“Now that we have moved on, we are able to fully re-engage in that space. We have cap space and we have money to spend so we will now be sitting down to ensure we spend the money wisely for the sole purpose of enhancing what we consider to be a very exciting young roster that we already have.”
Maguire is contracted until the end of the 2023 season but Hagipantelis admitted there would again be speculation about the club’s coaching position if the team does perform well next season.
“That’s understandable but it is pressure that will be external, not internal,” he said. “We have and we will continue to provide the football department and Michael, in particular, all of the support and resources that they need to be successful.
“He is our contracted NRL head coach, there will be no undue pressure or influence from the organisation itself, but the expectation is that everyone will do their best.”